Charlie Rich

Silver Linings

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In 1976 Charlie Rich was still riding the charts on the heels of Every Time You Touch Me (I Get High) to be able to record whatever the hell he wanted to, and his label, Epic, wasn't about to argue. Produced by Billy Sherrill, Silver Linings is a collection of traditional spirituals done as only the Silver Fox could, melding country, rhythm & blues, jazz, and pop together to come up with something wholly original, adding depth and dimension to songs that have been worn lifeless by overuse. Usually artists close an album with "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," but Rich had balls enough to kick off the set with it -- before moving into a hard-swinging read of "Down by the Riverside" that rivals Ray Charles' version for heart-stirring spiritual intensity and pure Saturday-night swagger. Whether backed by the Jordanaires or the Nashville Edition, Rich gets his choirs to deliver enough from the gut to allow him to work his magic. On "Why Me?" Rich sounds like a man at the end of his rope, and the choir serves to try to lift him above his despair. Side two is where the disc moves into overdrive with one of the finest-ever renditions of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" by a country artist. Rich's voice, with all its smoke and sweetness, blends well with the choir before kicking into a bluesy country stomp with whining pedal steel and snare drums popping in the margins. "Amazing Grace" is done as a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis' rock & roll and Meade "Lux" Lewis' boogie-woogie -- it's unadulterated, sanctified sinner's music. Rich sends it all out on a spooky note with "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child," which is part original Negro spiritual and part late-night blues. Amazing from start to finish, Silver Linings is one of the Top Ten country gospel records of all time.

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